Isaiah Allusion in Colossians 1.12?

9 06 2008

While reading through Isaiah 53, probably the most well known of the “servant songs,” I couldn’t help but notice a very familiar idea in verse 12a-
“Therefore, I will allot him a portion with the great…” (NRSV)

Paul, in Colossians 1.12, says this of the saints:
“[the Father], who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

In both verses, we have God actively conferring upon someone a share/allotment of an inheritance. In Isaiah’s passage, the one who recieves the inheritance is the coming Messiah, while in Paul’s writings it is the Colossians (and us by extension).  Having just translated through Colossians 1 not too long ago, I went to look up the Isaiah passage in the Septuagint:

διὰ τοῦτο αὐτὸς κληρονομήσει πολλοὺς καὶ τῶν ἰσχυρῶν μεριεῖ

Now here is the Greek for Colossians 1.12

εὐχαριστοῦντες τῷ πατρὶ τῷ ἱκανώσαντι ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν μερίδα τοῦ κλήρου τῶν ἁγίων ἐν τῷ φωτί

Notice the words in bold? Each of the three are cognates- that is verbs and nouns that come from the same root. Here are the comparisons:

Isaiah Paul
κληρονομήσει – verb kλήρου – noun
μεριεῖ – verb μερίδα – noun

So what do you guys think? Did Paul have this in mind as he penned his letter to the Colossians? It seems to fit his theology- that as adopted sons and daughters, we share in Christ’s inheritance who is the true Heir (cf Romans 8.17)

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One response

10 06 2008
Steven Robertson

Another similar reference (whether its Pauline or not is debatable) is Hebrews 1:2, alluding to Psalm 2:8; The word used there is κληρονόμον–a cognate of the vocabulary in Colossians.

Inheritance seems to be a key theme in the NT as a whole. It could be that Paul and the author of Hebrews are borrowing OT language without reference to a single specific text. Given the familiarity and proficiency of both Paul and Hebrews’ author with the OT, either language usage or direct reference are equally possible.

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